Tenerife is immersed in a plan to build and put into use treatment plants with the aim of ending discharges into the sea. In 2024 there will be 12 treatment plants that will be in operation, which will allow the Insular Water Council of the Cabildo de Tenerife to have the capacity to treat 100% of the wastewater generated on the island. To achieve this, an investment of 250 million euros will be necessary. However, this system of large treatment plants, which comes to replace that of small infrastructures throughout the Island, which the Cabildo defends, which did not finish working, has a handicap that the Island Corporation is forced to solve parallel way if you want to reach these figures in 2024. And it is that the smallest municipalities do not have sanitation networks or have them very poorly developed. In practice, this means that the large treatment plants find that they do not receive enough wastewater flow to function. This is what is happening to the recently inaugurated Güímar treatment plant, which does not achieve sufficient flow for optimal operation, since the municipalities of Candelaria, Arafo and Güímar itself lack a complete sewage system that carries the cubic meters of water needed by the infrastructure. It will take at least two years to complete the networks and the construction of collectors that take these waters to the treatment plant, according to some of the mayors of the Güímar Valley.
According to data from the Hydrological Plan of Tenerife, the large municipalities of Tenerife have developed their sanitation network in more than 90% of their territory, however, this percentage falls below 51% when looking at the data of smaller municipalities.
In many of these towns, the wastewater continues to be discharged directly into cesspools, with the risk of contamination of the aquifers that this entails, or there are even urbanizations that discharge their wastewater directly into the sea or into the ravines of the Island.
Therefore, one of the objectives to be achieved in the coming years is for the municipalities to have a sewage network that not only supplies flow to the large regional treatment plants, but also prevents direct discharges to the ground. Cabildo de Tenerife ensures that it is a priority, as is the construction of the regional treatment plants and the collectors necessary to connect them to the sanitation systems of the municipalities. Thus, the Cabildo, together with the Town Councils, and through the Municipal Cooperation Plan, both with the previous one, whose works are being finalized, and with the new one, which are on public display for final approval, have wanted to focus on promote the necessary works to achieve the development of municipal sanitation networks.
Zebenzuí Chinea is the island councilor for Municipal Cooperation and Housing, and explains to DIARIO DE AVISOS that “right now we are developing works related to sanitation within the previous Cooperation Plan, which will run in parallel with the new Plan, which also includes promote this type of works related to the water cycle”. He points out that “we have municipalities such as Adeje, Candelaria, Garachico, Icod, El Sauzal, Los Realejos, Vilaflor, La Orotava, or San Miguel (the lower part of Amarilla Golf, with the treatment plant). We also have works in Fasnia, in La Laguna, on Concepción Salazar street, which is a black spot, in Arafo, San Isidro, in Tamaimo, we have already finished the urbanization in Tegueste, and also works in Güímar”.
Chinea estimates that “we are around 16 municipalities, and in some we have already finished, such as Santa Úrsula.”
In terms of financing, “all these works have a budget of around 1.2 million, and come to respond to historical demands in terms of sanitation, which on the island has been a historical deficit, since they were seen as burying the money was not a very showy policy and such work was not carried out. Hence, the Cabildo, for years, within the Municipal Cooperation and Housing, has been working together with the municipalities to finance this type of project.
The Minister of Cooperation defends the effort that the Cabildo is making to correct this deficit. “In the previous plans, the budget for the Cooperation Plan was 48 million, over four years. In this new Plan, in a determined commitment by the insular president (Pedro Martín) to continue working and to give it the importance that it requires once and for all to solve this problem, we have gone from 48 million to 60, also in 4 years”. “To this we must add that, by another means, a specific program is being drawn up for municipalities with fewer than 20,000 inhabitants, which are 17 municipalities, also with 3.5 million priority works, which the municipalities must carry out,” he adds.
He admits that “we would obviously like to be able to do much more, but I also believe that a qualitative leap has been made in this area”.
The new Cooperation Plan, recalls Chinea, “was approved unanimously, and I think it is the result of work that has been carried out jointly with each and every one of the city councils, we have known how to leave political colors aside to carry out this plan. A plan divided into two phases of works, with an important part for sanitation and on the other hand small works to be carried out by the municipalities”.
In the meetings held with the mayors, the insular councilor points out that what most worries the municipal councilors is “to give an answer to the matter as soon as possible, because they are works that are normally very expensive and carry significant financing.”
As for the start dates of the new plan, “I am confident that it can already start in the last quarter, especially since we have previous work with the municipalities, so that public exposure and allegations are a matter of procedure” .
In that sanitation map, according to 2018 data, there were 10 municipalities on the island without a sewerage rate, nine only had that rate, and 12 had a sewerage and treatment rate.
This lack of sanitation networks is one of the main issues of the Canarian Business Association of Environmental Consultants of the Canary Islands, which has begun to address the different institutions asking for answers for the delay in the solutions to the discharges. The last of these writings is the one that they have addressed to the Insular Water Council inquiring about the reasons for having built the Güímar treatment plant without ensuring in parallel that the sanitation networks were ready to supply the infrastructure with sufficient flow to reach 7,000 meters daily cubic of treated water planned.
The association is very critical of the Cabildo’s deadlines and recalls that municipalities such as Candelaria only have 50% of the sewerage network developed, or that Güímar has 65% or Arafo where it does not reach 20% of the urban area.
The new Tenerife Hydrological Plan, still in the approval phase, recognizes that “more actions are needed focused on the improvement and modernization of the sanitation network, the purification systems, the discharge pipes and outfalls, as well as increasing educational campaigns , regulations, sanctions against illegal dumping, etc.